Category Archives: T’ai Chi Principles

Exploring the Myth of T’ai Chi: T’ai Chi isn’t Useful for Self Defense

Karate, Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, Boxing, MMA… all of these arts are known for their excellent self defense techniques. T’ai Chi, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the same reputation. To the average observer, it’s just too slow, too gentle, and not nearly aggressive enough to be a viable method of combat.

On top of that, many modern instructors only teach T’ai Chi for health benefits, leaving very few examples of combat applications available to the public. It’s no wonder that among non-practicioners, there’s a sense that T’ai Chi isn’t very good for self defense.

To many out there, T’ai Chi combat might look something like this…

So, how can we begin to dispel this myth? What practical application can T’ai Chi bring to martial training?

In order to explore this myth, we have to consider the ways T’ai Chi takes a unique view on self defense training.

Continue reading Exploring the Myth of T’ai Chi: T’ai Chi isn’t Useful for Self Defense

Thich Nhat Hanh & T’ai Chi: The Mindful Dichotomy

Inspirational quotes are a great source to help us stay motivated to practice. The best quotes are the ones that act as gentle reminders for the principles of breathing, movement, and keeping a mindful attitude while training.

On the subject of T’ai Chi, one author who really seems to speak to me is Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and Peace Activist who has written extensively about the philosophy, practice, and art of Mindful Meditation. It’s a bit odd that I choose Thich Nhat Hanh for T’ai Chi inspiration because his personal philosophy admonishes any kind of violence, either in thought or action. It’s doubtful that he would advocate the practice of a martial art in relation to any of his teachings.

Thich Nhat Hanh was born in Central Vietnam in 1926. As a young Buddhist Monk, he was confronted by the war that engulfed his country during the l960’s. He opposed the war and traveled the throughout the world, calling for peace and exchanging ideas with writers, scholars, and the activists of the time.

He met with the Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King and discussed the ways non-violent action could be used to change political thought and oppose injustice in the world.

He eventually led the Buddhist delegation at the Paris Peace talks in 1969 in the hopes of ending the hostilities in his Homeland.

After the war, Thich Nhat Hanh continued to travel and teach, opening monasteries and meditation communities so that he could spread his message of peace. He has written well over 100 books and articles on meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhist practices. He continues to be a voice for political and environmental injustice, as well as a Spiritual Leader in the Mindfulness Movement.

While age and an unfortunate stroke in 2014 prevent him from traveling and speaking, Thich Nhat Hanh continues to practice mindful meditation at his Plum Village communityy in France.

It’s difficult to reconcile the non-violence philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh with the martial aspects of T’ai Chi; However, both adhere to a mindful approach and a reflective awareness that is difficult to ignore.

Continue reading Thich Nhat Hanh & T’ai Chi: The Mindful Dichotomy

Book Review: ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer… Why It’s One of My Favorite T’ai Chi Books

A while back, I was doing some pretty intense HIIT training and quite a bit of running during my morning routine. I was working on building my aerobic endurance for kickboxing.

After about 12 weeks of this type of training, I noticed that the heels of my feet would really hurt when I woke up, first thing in the morning. The pain continued as time went on and eventually it got to the point where it became hard to exercise or even walk.

I ended up seeing a podiatrist, who quickly diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis, a foot injury common among runners that happens when the tendon leading under the foot becomes inflamed and painful. The Doctor prescribed some pain meds, a pair of foot inserts, and a special brace for me to wear at night.

I was okay with his treatment until he told me that I wouldn’t be able to run anymore.

Now, I’ve never been a really competitive runner, but it’s always been a part of my exercise routine to run a few miles as a warm up and also to clear my mind for training. I’d been running since Middle School and it just didn’t feel right to give it up.

I started searching the internet for ways to deal with this injury and found a group of barefoot runners. These are people who run without shoes and rely on special running techniques to protect their feet from injury. Without shoes, they are compelled to run very deliberately, making sure that only the proper areas of their feet come in contact with the ground.

After giving my feet some time to heal, I began to try the barefoot running technique and quickly became hooked: I found that without shoes, I could learn to run more naturally and with greater awareness.

I started slowly, running first on grass before eventually building up to pavement. As I improved, I continued to search for and practice everything I could find on natural running techniques.  That’s when I discovered the book that changed everything for me; Danny Dreyer’s ChiRunning.

(Now, I need to mention that Chi Running IS NOT about running barefoot. Danny Dreyer recommends his techniques are practiced in  proper running shoes. –Now, I still like to run barefoot because it feels very natural and forces me to stay honest to the technique.)

Danny Dreyer’s insights into both running and T’ai Chi are actually quite amazing…

Continue reading Book Review: ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer… Why It’s One of My Favorite T’ai Chi Books

Embracing Confidence: the T’ai Chi Way!

Using the principles of T’ai Chi can help us in a variety of ways during our daily life. One area of life that we can all use a little help with is self-confidence.

Some of us, unfortunately, seem to have no confidence;We’re wishy-washy and easily run over by pushy salespeople, aggressive authority figures (like  parents, bosses, or teachers), and tend to fade away into the crowd rather than stand up and express ourselves confidently to the rest of the world.

Others, try to arm themselves with a sense of ‘False Confidence.’ They outwardly appear strong, brash, and sure of themselves to everyone outside, but in doing so become rigid in their convictions. They stand so hard on their beliefs that they fail to see the value of ideas different from their own. This puts them in constant conflict with those around them and leaves their ego hopelessly bruised when someone has a better idea or wins an argument.

In both cases, the result is the same. They eventually become frustrated and drained of energy.

If you lack confidence, you’ll become slowly frustrated at your inability to speak up for yourself and feel pushed around until the stress of not being able to stand up for yourself becomes too much and you finally explode in a fit of anger.

If you’ve built an inflated sense of False Confidence, you find yourself always arguing your point and in friction with anyone who doesn’t share your particular point of view. Again, this constant struggle eventually leads to frustration and most likely a bitter breaking point.

Either way, these poor confidence strategies leave the person exhausted and stressed out, which is not  a very resourceful way to live.

Luckily, there is a fundamental T’ai Chi principle that provides true, authentic confidence and saves our mental energy, leaving us relaxed and stress free. It’s not a ‘Get Confident Quick’ scheme, like reciting positive affirmations into a mirror, but a real strategy that works even when life gets tough.. Continue reading Embracing Confidence: the T’ai Chi Way!